First Pitch: 3:38 pm CDT
TV: ESPN / ~ / Radio: TIBN
The stage is set.
For as much as the opponent across the box score is the assembled postseason roster of the Toronto Blue Jays, every Twins fan in attendance and observing at home knows who the real Goliath is. There is no amount of ink that hasn’t already been spilled on the subject, and with all due respect to Canadian fans, there are no two ways around it — the Jays are merely a stand-in for the true demon.
It’s a heartbreaking, historic undertaking. While certainly alive for the last victory, my fandom never materializing until the 2008 season nonetheless means that I’ve never seen this team win a playoff game. There will be legal adults in attendance today who haven’t, either. You know it, I know it. There is nothing more to say about this baffling, 20-year crusade, nothing new to offer lest the curse continue and the 19th defeat befall the squad on Tuesday; no worthwhile rehash of debilitating lowlights that haven’t been replayed a million times.
Most of all, there’s nothing I can write this afternoon to dress it up. No context I can provide, no clarity I can offer. This is one of those situations where reality needs no introduction.
The Minnesota Twins have lost 18 consecutive playoff games, a professional sports record.
Is today the day?
The sentiment that “it’s gotta end tonight” has been repeated since the streak was in its infancy, when it was still a downright quaint stretch of misfortune, rather than a generational mindfreak. With all that said, there’s a reason Minnesota fans still — despite decades of reasons not to — are finding some hope.
This is almost certainly the best postseason pitching corps the Twins have taken into October since the Johan Santana administration. Pitching wins championships, same as it’s ever been, and Minnesota has the unique-to-them opportunity to fire two All-Star starting bullets back-to-back to begin a three-game home series.
This afternoon, it’s Pablo Lopez, who’d have easily been the marquee winter add (were it not for the Carlos Correa reunion.) Lopez checked every single box for Minnesota, pitching to a 3.66 ERA, starting 32 games, and racking up a towering 234 strikeouts in his first All-Star season at the age of 27. He’s young, he’s the ace, he’s locked in, and he represents the new competitive identity of this team’s pitching personnel.
Of course, Toronto’s #1 is no snoozer.
Kevin Gausman was born early in 1991 — perhaps a significant number if you think numerology has anything to do with felling this beast. Gausman’s 2023 season was a masterclass; he led the American League with 237 strikeouts, made his second All-Star Game, and pitched 185 innings. He’s a righty — probably preferable to the Twins — but he’s damn good.
Additionally, he’s backed up by an offense that — while somewhat disappointing this season — has the collective ceiling to really make the Twins hurt. Name after name is going to be in this starting lineup — Vladdy, Jr. Matt Chapman. George Springer. Kirk, Belt, Biggio, Bichette; the list goes on, and in an October atmosphere, that list is intimidating.
But the Twins offense finally kicked into gear after the All-Star break, utilizing veteran bouncebacks, depth-piece stability, and rookie sensations to catapult this team into a comfortable division championship. With numerous question marks as early as 10:00 this morning, the final Wild Card roster will feature Carlos Correa and Royce Lewis, but no Byron Buxton.
There’s been a lot of playoff baseball for Minnesota last 20 years. That there haven’t been any highlights is a crime.
Today, the next generation of Twins grabs the torch, with one goal — douse the fire. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime, brimstone chip on the shoulder, ready to be eradicated, returned to the inferno from whence it came. For 20 years the Twins have slipped into the cauldron of Mount Doom, at every opportunity; this afternoon, they get another shot at redemption, another chance to reverse the curse, another shot to reach, to keep their grip on the baseball gods’ twisted equivalent of Samwise Gamgee’s outstretched hand.
Is this it?
The American League Wild Card Series.
Go Twins Go.